Saturday, November 3, 2012

Final training update: half-marathon eve

A lot has happened in the last month! I ran my longest distance ever of 13.5 miles during a group training run. It was cold and rained for at least an hour of our run. It was the toughest run of my life, hands down. By mile 11 my hips were really sore, I was making ugly grimace faces, and to say I was irritable is a huge understatement. But... I did it! The best part was, this training run earned me my first "unofficial" medal! The Galloway group that I run with awards you a medal for your first 13.1 or 26.2 mile training runs. I was SO excited to receive that first piece of hardware!

First medal ever!!

Two weeks after that, I ran yet another distance PR of 15.5 miles! What the what? I know, a lot of people training for a half-marathon only train up to about 10-12 miles but I needed to know I could go the distance again. This second run was far better than the first. In fact I was only supposed to run 14 miles but felt so great that I decided to add the extra 1.5. It was a huge victory, both physically and mentally. Then, the taper began.

The following Saturday my training group had a 6 mile run planned, with an optional magic mile. For those who don't know, a magic mile is run at a harder-than-normal pace and is then used to determine your race pace goals. The last time we did a magic mile was a few months ago, so I was excited to do another. My training buddy J and I took off running together but I instantly felt it was a pace way faster than was comfortable for me.

Typically when doing my magic mile, I run the first half conservatively and then finish strong. This time, we had barely reached the 1/4 mile marker when I knew I was in trouble. In between gasping for air, I muttered that the pace was too fast. J knew I was having a tough time and suggested we slow down but I was afraid if I lost my momentum I'd stop completely. I kept telling myself to just keep going, that it would be over in a mile, and so I continued to push myself past the point of comfort. I could hardly speak but J kept talking to me. 

J: "Did I mention I used to be a miler in high school?"
Me: "Asshole!"
Me: "...I meant that with love."
J: "I felt it with love."

Once we passed the 3/4 mile mark, I was over it. I begged J to tell me as soon as the 1 mile sign was in sight and I just kept moving my feet as fast as I could. Our pace had slowed down because I was gassed and when we crossed the 1-mile mark I stopped my watch and looked down... 10:44. The EXACT same time I had run 3 months ago. I burst into tears.

J watched me unravel and asked why I was upset. I explained that I had run the same time 3 months ago and that I should have improved my time by now and that I was disappointed. She told me I was being too hard on myself and that I should think about how far I have come with my running and my weight loss. I know I have come leaps and bounds and am extremely proud of my progress. I guess that's why I was so frustrated with the lack of progress I had made in regard to my speed.

The very next day, a group of us met up for a 5 mile road race. I was excited to beat my previous 5-mile time and also to run with about 6 other ladies from my training group. When we crossed the start line, the pace felt fast but I stuck with it. By mile 3, some of the girls had dropped off and I was really feeling the hills on the course. When we saw the 5-mile sign, we began sprinting to the finish... only to find that the finish line was around the corner and down the block. I gave everything I had left and we crossed the finish line just under 1:05:00... 3 minutes SLOWER than my previous time.

Again, I was heartbroken. I felt like something was wrong with me, that I had somehow after all my training ended up even less-prepared than before. I started to doubt myself and my training; the thought of my half-marathon brought me fear instead of excitement. I was not in a good place.

First "official" race medal - Ramblin' Rose 5-miler

The following weekend, a few of us skipped our training run in favor of Color Me Rad. That fun run was exactly what I needed to loosen up a bit after some stressful training runs. Color Me Rad was a big party, with runners (& walkers) asked to wear a white t-shirt. Throughout the 5K, there are color-bomb stations where volunteers spray you with liquid color or toss colorful powder all over you. We laughed and screamed and overall had a great time. I am grateful for that experience.

Since we had skipped an 8-mile training run in favor of the 5k, I decided to train the 8 miles alone on Sunday. It was a cold and very windy day thanks to Hurricane Sandy, but I went out anyway. I mapped myself an 8 mile route and ran my own speed, with no pressures to keep up with anyone else. When I got back to my house, I felt amazing.

When I looked at my stats, I was beyond thrilled. Despite the hills, despite running into the wind for 75% of my run, despite all of the negative thoughts swimming in my mind for weeks, I ran the fastest 8 miles of my life. They were also the most consistent, according to my splits. Finally, I felt confident and ready to tackle the one goal I've been looking forward to completing all year.

My race day outfit! Yes, I made them put BANG on my bib!
Now, on the eve of my very first "official" half-marathon, I am filled with excitement and nervous energy. I am determined that despite meeting up with my friends from training group before the race, I will be wearing my headphones and running MY race. I will not let competition or negativity distract me from my goal. I will do this!

We talk so often about achieving PRs or weight loss goals, but what happens when we miss the mark? How do you deal with the disappointment of an unexpected outcome?


  1. For two years in a row, a race that is near and dear to me has been my nemesis. The first time around, I ran it with my knee literally taped together by my PT. I finished, but it wasn't pretty. Hoped for redemption this year, but I was diagnosed with shingles two weeks before the race. What???! After excruciating pain and no training for several weeks, I decided to run it anyway. I took it easy and managed to shave almost 9 mins off last year's time. I'm hoping the third time's the charm and I arrive at the start line next year healthy and uninjured. I've learned that some things are out of our control and you ultimately need to trust your training. YOU ARE READY!!! I hope you have an unforgettable first half tomorrow! So looking forward to reading all about it! :)

  2. Congrats on making it to your first half-marathon, all those doubts about whether you could do it have disappeared!
    It's hard when you don't make a PR or weight loss goal because you focus on what you didn't do. Sometimes I have to step back and think about what I've accomplished with running since this journey began. A lot of times I get upset and am ready to do better and try again, it can be a great motivator.

  3. I know that you will do great tomorrow. Enjoy the race and the experience. Think of how awesome it is that you can actually do this. Not many people can. I will be cheering you on from the West Coast.

  4. Awesome job! Good luck at the half. Do you have a finish time set in your brain?